Update 1/18/12 This was recently posted in the comments. I have yet to verify on my own yet, but this does appear to be legit. -Dana
Thank you for contacting Panera Bread. With the exception of our Jalapeño Cheddar Bagel, we have recently introduced a new natural bagel base in our bagels that does not use l-cysteine or cysteine. Please note that neither was ever an ingredient in our Artisan breads.
Thank you again for contacting us. We appreciate your interest in our menu items.
Customer Comments Coordinator
Everyone like bagels, and I sure do. I eat one almost everyday. By way of an awesome business arrangement we end up with a nice cache of Panera gift cards from time to time. I had been getting the Mediterranean veggie sandwich – hold the feta. By all accounts, totally tasty and all vegan. The only problem is a veggie sandwich is not very manly, and thus not very filling. The free pickle (I hope that’s vegan) is a nice added bonus!
I had taken to ordering an extra plain bagel “to go” in order to top off my appetite later if the veggie sandwich did not completely do the job.
Panera does a good job of listing all of their ingredients on their website, so we knew for instance that the “French Toast” bagel was not suitable for vegans. No biggie, I can deal with a good old plain bagel.
I wrote to Panera a few days ago to ask about more clearly labeling the bagels so people would know that some were NOT vegan. I also wished for some sort of bakery item, as none of the baked goods at Panera are vegan. Sad, they look so good! Damn!
Here’s my e-mail to Panera:
You should more clearly label the items that are on your menu as vegan. Some of the bagels are and some are not. Also, it would be super cool if you offered just one vegan bakery item, a tart, a cookie, a brownie, or a cake. If you did, I would buy one every single time I stopped in for lunch or dinner. While I don’t care if it’s gluten free or not, it might be possible to have a gluten free, vegan treat and solve two problems at once.
Here’s the super friendly Panera response:
Thank you for contacting Panera Bread. The mono & diglycerides in our breads and bagels are all vegetable-sourced. Our cheeses, except for Asiago, Feta and Gorgonzola, are processed with non-animal enzymes (Dana says: I assume this is in reference to Casein a protein that is found in milk. It is often found in cheese, and it’s almost always in cheese alternatives). Please note, that our current ingredients’ vendor has informed us that the amino acid l-cysteine used in our bagels is derived from an animal source.
L-Cysteine is a minor constituent of the bagel base commonly and widely used in the baking industry as a dough conditioner. It is an amino acid obtained from a number of sources by means of hydrolysis (a lengthy refining process). The end product is extremely remote from its natural or synthetic origin.
There are many choices on our menu for vegetarians or for those who watch their diet for religious reasons. However, if it is a serious concern for you, or you are a vegan, rather than a vegetarian, you will always want to check ingredients before you order. I have also noted your request to our product development team for future consideration.
By definition, “Vegan” means foods with NO animal products: NO meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy (including whey and casein) nor their by-products. Some strict “Vegans” may even avoid honey, white sugar, beer, vinegar and yeast. So we do not label any of our products as specifically Vegan because of these various differences of opinion. We do list all the ingredients of all our menu items on our website (and in notebooks in our bakery-cafés, which are available for viewing on request), so we leave it up to you to check on specific items to see if they fit your own definition of “Vegan.”
Thank you again for contacting us. We appreciate your business and value your thoughts on our menu.
Customer Comment Coordinator
Sadly, NONE of the bagels at Panera, are vegan. What? That’s crazy. What’s in a bagel that’s not egg and that’s NOT vegan. The answer is L-Cysteine. It’s a tiny part, but it’s used as a dough conditioner, and apparently it’s pretty widely used. You can read the sicking details on it here:
The non vegan and also the non vegetarian forms are most commonly made from duck feathers. Yeah, you heard me, duck feathers. I suppose that’s better then the other non-delightful version that’s made from human hair (there’s some question if this qualifies a cannibalism. Wow!). Now they do process this stuff to extremes, so as Panera mentions in their e-mail to me, the source is far, far removed from the end product, but it’s still not vegan.
Update 11/10/09: Dunkin’ Donuts’ bagels are not vegan either. See this link for a letter that reads like the the one above from Panera. Sad.
This post gets quite a bit of attention from folks searching for info on bagels being vegan or not (BTW some bagels ARE vegan).